J: I was with an old friend yesterday. We used to play tennis back in the day when our kids were little and tennis was an escape from them. We would bang the ball back and forth while discussing the issues of the day: babysitters, work, kids - all the normal "mom" stuff.
Yesterday's visit was different. I realized that, like it or not, I'm now sort of an expert on all things Alzheimer's. My friend's mom is in the mid stages of the disease and my friend is trying to figure out how best to manage her care. Her dad is healthy and competent, so he is trying to shoulder a lot of the burden himself. Despite having lots of siblings, my friend is finding that she is the go-to person when her dad needs a break. This, plus her full time job and her own family, is starting to take a toll on her. So she sought the advice of an "expert". Unfortunately, I've heard this same scenario way too many times. The work load is NEVER evenly divided, and, try as they might, families almost always splinter in some way when the work load gets too heavy.
So, here's the free, expert (?) advice I gave to her: Implement outside help NOW. Even if it's just a few hours a couple days a week. Start using caregivers before you really feel you need them. Let everyone get comfortable with the people being in the home. There will come a time that the caregivers will be absolutely essential. The healthy parent will get sick and need to be hospitalized; the children will all be away on vacation at the same time; the AD parent will decline to the point where she needs constant supervision. Unfortunately, one or all of these things are likely to happen. Don't be caught off guard. Be ready, so that when something happens all you need to do is call (INSERT CAREGIVER'S NAME HERE) and ask if she can work a few more hours for a while. It is peace of mind. An insurance policy, if you will. Because this disease only goes in one direction, you will get your money's worth from your policy.
And that advice is worth exactly what you paid for it!